Citizen Kane Breakfast Montage

Categories: BreakfastCitizen Kane

While it is evident to the viewer that Charles and Emily’s marriage is falling apart during Citizen Kane’s breakfast montage, the mise-en-scene and technical devices used to reinforce this idea are less recognizable. The variation of the actors’ demeanors and placement, the progression of costumes, and the use of lighting subtly support the presentation of a deteriorating marriage, and furthermore, of Kane’s inability to sustain a successful, lasting relationship due to his career.

The mise-en-scene and technical devices used in the montage are by no means limited to this portion of the film.

In fact, they are found in numerous scenes throughout the movie to reveal other relationships that have fallen apart as a result of Kane’s profession, such as his friendship with Jed Leland and romance with Susan Alexander.

The actors’ attitudes in each sequence in the montage and their placement in relation to one another are each examples of the mise-en-scene portraying Charles and Emily’s feelings toward each other as time passes in their marriage.

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The introduction to the montage shows the viewer two individuals playfully flirting after a long night of parties. Charles even plays the role of a butler as he serves his wife. Emily on the other hand, giggles and smiles as she begs her husband to stay home with her a little longer before he goes to work. As each successive sequence passes, Emily becomes reprimanding as her husband begins to spend more time at work, scornful when he insists on putting Mr.

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Bernstein’s gift in the nursery and when he insults the president in his newspaper, and eventually sad as she sits at a silent breakfast table reading the rival newspaper of her husband’s. Charles tone of voice evolves from flirtatious in the opening sequence, to powerful and controlling as his paper starts to become more successful, to critical when his wife starts to question his authority and literary topics, to demanding as he tells Emily “people will think what I want them to think.”

This last controlling statement reflects a later scene, where a drunk Jed Leland writes a truthful article about Susan Alexander’s terrible opera performance. Kane and Leland initially wrote a declaration of principles stating that the newspaper would always bring the people honest news. To advance his career, Kane stepped away from that principle and only showed the people what he wanted them to see. The difference between Leland wanting to be an honest reporter and Kane wanting to become a successful businessman, no matter what the cost, destroyed the men’s friendship. Not only do Charles and Emily’s tone of voice change with each successive sequence, but the length of conversations and the distance between the couple also change by becoming shorter and more distanced.

The first sequence is a long, flirtatious banter consisting of talk about parties and Emily’s beauty with little talk of the newspaper between the married couple sitting next to each other. Each progressive breakfast has a shorter conversation dominated by talk of the newspaper as opposed to the couple’s relationship. After the first breakfast, Emily and Charles sit on opposite sides of the table, a physical demonstration of how the newspaper is creating distance between husband and wife. A similar example of evolved physical distance can be seen in the later romance between Charles and Susan Alexander.

A prime illustration of this is the scene where Susan is putting together a puzzle on one side of the massive living room in Xanadu and Charles is standing at the other end. When Charles and Susan started seeing each other, they were more often than not close in proximity. Susan was an asset for the Inquirer during her opera career, where Kane would have great reviews written about her performances, despite the fact that they violated his “Declaration of Principles.” Huge audiences were brought to his newly built opera house, thus making his name more popular. However, once the second Mrs. Kane ended her career as an opera singer and was no longer useful to the newspaper, Charles began to separate himself from her. The progression of Emily and Charles’ physical appearance- from striking clothing, hair, and general upkeep to neither husband nor wife trying to impress their significant other with their physical presentation- is another example of mise-en-scene exhibiting the failing of the relationship. Emily’s first outfit is a frilly, skin-exposing dress that was worn during an evening out.

Her hair is in an intricate, pretty up do and her makeup lightly done, but her skin still youthful without blemishes or wrinkles. Each following sequence has Emily wearing a dress that shows less skin and is more proper, her hair worn increasingly more carelessly, and her face showing more wrinkles and looking less youthful with a sad expression. Charles follows a similar pattern in the way his dress evolves. He initially wears a suit meant for a party and looks handsome with his hair slicked back and almost no sign of age on his face. However, he starts wearing robes to breakfast with unkempt hair, not looking to impress his wife. A few sequences in, we start seeing Charles back in a suit, but with increased amounts of age lines visible on his face, indicating that he is spending more time and energy at work, and he is either coming home from work around breakfast time or leaving immediately after breakfast to tend to the Inquirer.

While the clothing choices of each character reflects the decreasing effort to please each other, the wrinkles on each characters face shows how both the relationship and the newspaper are starting to perturb both husband and wife. Both key lighting and fill lighting contribute to the montage by depicting the time of each day and the presentation of the actors’ faces. The key light is a parallel in every sequence of the montage. It always comes from the back window and portrays that it is the same time of day in each sequence. The corresponding unvarying time of day paired with the evolving conversations and attire described earlier create a feeling that the act of having breakfast together has become routine and a burden as opposed to romantic for the couple. While the key light is unchanged throughout the montage, the fill light on each actors face changes in each sequence to assist in the idea that time is passing.

A large amount of fill light is used at the outset of the montage, giving a youthful, blemish-less look to the faces of Charles and Emily. However, the fill light becomes less prominent in each successive sequence, giving Charles an intensifying harshness on his face with more age lines and Emily more dramatic shadows along her cheekbones and eyes, making her appear to be tired and sad. Acting, costumes, and lighting are all devices used throughout Citizen Kane to demonstrate failing relationships between Kane and some of the closest individuals in his life, including Emily, Jed Leland, and Susan Alexander. Nevertheless, the breakfast montage effectively applies both mise-en-scene and technical devices to display the first broken relationship caused by Charles Kane’s passion for the Inquirer.

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Citizen Kane Breakfast Montage. (2017, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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